Reports emanating from states in western Africa make a disturbing reading. Extremist outfits like Boko Haram in Nigeria and Ansar Deen in Mali and Niger have rendered the region a huge magnet for Islamic militants from all over the Middle East and AfPak region. Internal strife and perpetual famine had long sapped the vitality of the people here. But the new affliction i.e., persecution of common folk by roaming moral brigades, has left the people reminisce about the painful past wistfully.
Situation in Nigeria is grim. Boko Haram’s bomb attacks against the packed Churches threatens to harden fault lines between Muslims and Christian in northern states of Nigeria into permanent borders. It is not even four decades that Nigeria has emerged from a civil war on the issue of Biafra. Peace between the two communities has always been tenuous. It requires decades more to heal the wounds between the Christian-dominated southern region and Muslim- inhabited tribal north. Needless to say that oil politics of the superpowers and aggressive Christian missionaries too have played their part in triggering and sustaining the conflict and
If Boko Haram’s vision of a puritan Islamic state is behind the current bloodshed in Nigeria, Salafi-inspired Ansar Deen’s bid to impose a strict moral code on a people long nurtured under mystic culture has kicked up the crisis in Mali and Mauritania. Boko Haram (literally meaning ‘Western education is sinful’ in Hausa language) prohibits all kinds of interaction with the West and has graduated from a salafist to a terrorist group, torching churches, killing Christians and assassinating those who oppose it, including the ones from among the Muslims. It rejects facts such as earth being spherical and concepts like Darwinism even while its founder Mohammed Yousuf is known to have been speaking English and driving a Mercedes-Benz. In contrast, the inwardly focused Ansar Deen is more concerned with erasing the archival remnants of the glorious Islamic civilization of Timbuktu dubbing them ‘corruptive accretions
to the simple creed of Islam’. Several mausoleums of Sufis were demolished in pursuance of its ideology of not allowing any reminders of the departed souls. The mud structure of theaesthetic Sankore mosque faces grave threat of being demolished by the marauding hordes being let loose by this fanatic group. The destruction of the magnificent cultural signposts of the past has provoked outrage and raised international concern. Women being alone and even the mutually rejoicing couples, Western tourists and smokers are whipped and lashed by gunmen and chased off streets. Reign of terror remains unchecked even though a civilian government is in saddle in Mali.
It is time the bodies like the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) wake up and take notice of the incipient conflicts brewing in the underbelly of West Africa and save the region from further descending into the depth of despair.